by Sara West, MSHS-PH, Director of ClinicsInstitute of Reproductive Grief Care
October is officially upon us! Although this month coincides with cooler weather, pumpkins, and harvest festivals galore, it also is a month of special awareness. It is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care helps families and loved ones honor and remember those impacted by reproductive loss.
With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, these - and other types of pregnancy and reproductive losses - have a profound effect on millions. Everyone knows someone who has experienced this unique, and often very painful, loss. Yet the grief and emotions of pregnancy loss are typically underestimated and marginalized in our culture.
Emotional reactions after pregnancy loss are as unique as fingerprints. However, those who grieve can feel this pain for years - even decades, according to our study. In addition to this pain, there is the worry that others have completely forgotten about the loss, forgot that the pregnancy even happened, or simply don't think that this kind of grief is as important as "traditional" grief.
Reproductive loss surrounds us, and yet we do not talk about it. And, if we do talk about it, we tend to focus on the mother, ignoring partners, family members, and other loved ones, even though we know it impacts the whole family.
One person wrote on our healing website, MiscarriageHurts.com, “My sister has had three miscarriages. Each time she feels worse. Each time I feel worse.”
These losses are outside of the normal rules of grief in society. We do not know what to do or say, therefore, very often, we do or say nothing. It is hard to know exactly what to say, but simple phrases like: “I am so sorry – that must be hard. You are not alone, and I am here if you want to talk. How can I support you?” are helpful in that you have acknowledged that person, their loss and their grief. Just this acknowledgment can be an invitation to healing.
The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care brings to light the widespread need for help that is faced by the millions impacted by miscarriage and other pregnancy and reproductive losses. We change the way that people think and talk about reproductive loss, and create traditions that focus on healing, remembrance, and hope. We offer a safe place for all impacted by pregnancy and reproductive losses, to receive the support that they need in kindness and without judgment.
As experts on grief after pregnancy loss, we are leading the charge to “Wear and Share” the “Forget Me Not” flower in October. The “Forget Me Not” flower honors those impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss, raises awareness for the millions of people impacted, and gives those grieving a way to tell their story and process their loss. The "Forget Me Not" flower assures those impacted that we are remembering them, and remembering their children with them.
We at the Institute encourage everyone to wear a "Forget Me Not" flower in October to show your support, care and compassion for anyone impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss.
Are you, or do you know, someone impacted by pregnancy and reproductive loss? Not sure what to say or do? The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care and Life Perspectives’ Helpful Toolkits are free resources for anyone who needs help, hope and healing after this unique kind of loss. These toolkits, on our website at https://www.LifePerspectives.com, include resources, videos and helpful lists. Special “Helpful Toolkits” are also included for: women, men, family and friends, as well as for healthcare professionals and faith leaders.
Please join us in honoring Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month – we remember with you.
by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
I recently had the opportunity to share dinner with Michaelene Fredenburg, creator of AbortionChangesYou.com. While our conversation covered a wide range of topics, it was filled with insights about grief, loss, and the healing journey.
Here's a few that have implications for maternity homes:
In Michealene's experience, she has found the term reproductive loss and grief to find more resonance with a widespread audience than would other terms we commonly use with clients. By using reproductive loss and grief to describe the suffering of abortion, people intuitively understand that the loss resembles the pain associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility.
"When I am talking to therapists and other health professionals from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems,” Michaelene said. “I have seen the light blub go off as they make the connection between the grief of miscarriage—which is commonly acknowledged—and the loss of abortion."
Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience
By conveying the real experiences of real people, Changed teaches providers to sensitively and compassionately communicate with others about abortion as well as offering interactive suggestions for those affected by abortion to begin the healing process.
Grief & Abortion: Creating a Safe Place to Heal
Grief & Abortion introduces abortion in the context of human grief and loss. It is a guide for counselors and leaders who walk with clients on their healing journey and is a natural companion to Changed.
The experience of a woman who is grieving in the days following an abortion varies significantly from the grief of an abortion carried in secret for 15 years. The models of healing programs vary accordingly, often having been developed to address the needs that were becoming evident.
Because of the pro-life movement’s awareness of this dynamic over the years, those affected by abortion can choose between a variety of wonderful programs with different formats, models of healing and philosophical foundations.
Our role in the maternity home setting is to help a woman find the most meaningful program or method in her particular stage of grief.
Representing a time of safety and community, the context of the maternity home may be an ideal environment for entering into deep healing work. But, a woman must have the freedom to face her grief according to her own timeline.
To prevent adding additional trauma, our role should always be information and invitation.
Resources such as AbortionChangesYou.com use a self-directed approach with online tools and a moderated sharing format to give women from various backgrounds an opportunity to begin exploring their grief.
Resources like these can often bridge the gap between unacknowledged grief and the road to healing, which, we know, often takes place within the setting of a maternity home.
“At Abortion Changes You, we understand ourselves as a gateway, or a starting place," Michaelene said.
Since the process of healing from reproductive loss and grief is at the same time essential and unique for each woman, here are some helpful tips to use in your maternity home ministry, starting today.
For more information about Abortion Changes You, visit www.AbortionChangesYou.com or www.CreatingASafeplace.com.
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